Everything you need to know about the different types of questions on the bar exam
The National Conference of Bar Examiners created the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) to streamline bar examinations among states, as well as encourage reciprocity among state bars. In total, 36 states use the UBE, and it acts as a portable score, allowing lawyers to practice law in different states without needing to take the bar exam again (thank goodness). In this guide, we cover the different types of bar exam questions you will find on the UBE, along with specific commentary on states like California, Texas, and New York.
The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) features 200 questions, which you will need to answer over six hours. This is broken up into a morning section and an afternoon section.
Only 175 of the questions will be scored, as 25 are considered experimental questions to be used on future exams. However, exam takers do not know which questions are going to be scored.
If you want to get a feel for what it’s like to sit through a full day of 200 questions, it might be a good idea to sign up for a bar review course.
Prep courses from the likes of BarMax and Studicata not only offer hundreds of practice questions and full-length assessments, but also give you detailed answer solutions so that you can learn the rationale behind the problems.
What Types of Questions Are On The Bar Exam?
There are three main question or problem types on the bar exam. There are standalone multiple-choice questions (MBE), written essays (MEE) and performance tests (MPT).
For the most well-known section of the exam, the MBE, the questions feature a brief fact pattern, followed by a direct question, with four multiple-choice answers.
These questions cover seven topics including civil procedure, contracts, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts. Each of those topics has 25 questions.
Essays are also a common testing format used by state bar examiners (this is called MEE under the UBE). The topics of the essays can vary by jurisdiction but will generally focus on one or more of the following: business associations, conflicts of laws, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, family law, federal civil procedure, real property, secured transactions, torts, trusts and estates, and the Uniform Commercial Code.
Then lastly, there are performance tests. These are essentially “assignments,” as if you were a practicing lawyer. You’ll be given a case file, containing documents such as depositions, pleadings, and medical records, then asked to prepare some assignment (like a memo) based on those source documents.
If this sounds nerve wracking, recall that bar exam prep companies like Kaplan and Barbri offer plenty of practice questions to get you ready for the different types of questions and topics you’ll encounter come test day.
MBE Bar Exam Questions
Below is a sample question similar to what will be found on an MBE bar exam along with possible answers.
Question: A father lived with his son, who was an alcoholic. When drunk, the son often became violent and physically abused his father. As a result, the father always lived in fear. One night, the father heard his son on the front stoop making loud, obscene remarks. The father was certain that his son was drunk and was terrified that he would be physically beaten again.
In his fear, he bolted the front door and took out a revolver. When the son discovered that the door was bolted, he kicked it down. As the son burst through the front door, his father shot him four times in the chest, killing him. In fact, the son was not under the influence of alcohol or any drug and did not intend to harm his father. At trial, the father presented the above facts and asked the judge to instruct the jury on self-defense. How should the judge instruct the jury with respect to self-defense?
(A) Give the self-defense instruction because it expresses the defense’s theory of the case.
(B) Give the self-defense instruction because the evidence is sufficient to raise the defense.
(C) Deny the self-defense instruction because the father was not in imminent danger from his son.
(D) Deny the self-defense instruction because the father used excessive force.
The questions on the MBE test are in multiple-choice format, and you will choose the answer that best matches what’s asked in the question. If you are looking for more practice, Quimbee and Bar Prep Hero both offer highly realistic practice questions that mimic the MBE.
California Baby Bar Exam Sample Questions
The First-Year Law Students’ Examination (FYLSX) is also known as the baby bar exam. It is given remotely twice a year in June and October. Below are some of the common types of questions that may appear on the test.
Question: “What are the elements of assault? Battery?”
Question: “What are the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress?”
The exam will consist of four, one-hour essay questions and 100 multiple-choice questions.
California Bar Exam Questions
The California bar exam includes the General Bar Examination and the Attorney’s Examination. It includes a performance test, five essay questions, and the Multistate Bar Exam. Below is a sample question.
Question: Harry had premarital savings of $10,000 in a bank account when he married Winona in California in 2015. After the wedding, Harry started working at a new job and deposited his $3,000 salary check into the account. Shortly afterward, he paid $2,000 for rent and $2,000 for living expenses with checks drawn on the account. He then bought $1,000 in Acme stock in his own name with another check drawn on the account. The Acme stock increased in value over time.
During the marriage, Winona purchased disability insurance out of her salary. She later became disabled and could no longer work. As a result, she became entitled to monthly disability insurance payments, which will continue until she reaches the age of 65.
Thereafter, Harry and Winona decided to live separately but go to counseling with the hope of reconciling. After Harry moved out of the family home, he used his earnings to gamble at a local casino, winning a large amount of money with which he opened an investment account in his own name. Harry did not tell Winona about his winnings or investment account because she did not approve of gambling.
Subsequently, after a period of counseling, Harry and Winona concluded that they would not reconcile and Harry filed for dissolution. A few days later, Harry took out a loan to pay for a sailboat, hoping that sailing would relieve the stress of the divorce. What are Harry’s and Winona’s rights and liabilities regarding:
Exam takers need to answer according to California law. As such, if you are taking the California bar exam, you will likely want to purchase a specific review course that is centered around California law. For example, BarMax and Barbri both offer California specific courses.
Texas Bar Exam Questions
Since February 2021, Texas has been using the Uniform Bar Exam for prospective attorneys. This has been a big change. Below is a sample question similar to those found on the exam.
Question: A woman borrowed $800,000 from a bank and gave the bank a note for that amount secured by a mortgage on her farm. Several years later, at a time when the woman still owed the bank $750,000 on the mortgage loan, she sold the farm to a man for $900,000. The man paid the woman $150,000 in cash and specifically assumed the mortgage note. The bank received notice of this transaction and elected not to exercise the optional due-on-sale clause in the mortgage.
Without informing the man, the bank later released the woman from any further personal liability on the note. After he had owned the farm for a number of years, the man defaulted on the loan. The bank properly accelerated the loan, and the farm was eventually sold at a foreclosure sale for $500,000. Because there was still $600,000 owed on the note, the bank sued the man for the $100,000 deficiency.
Is the man liable to the bank for the deficiency?
(A) No, because the woman would have still been primarily liable for payment, but the bank had released her from personal liability.
(B) No, because the bank’s release of the woman from personal liability also released the man.
(C) Yes, because the bank’s release of the woman constituted a clogging of the equity of redemption.
(D) Yes, because the man’s personal liability on the note was not affected by the bank’s release of the woman.
Although a UBE problem, the question would need to be answered with Texas law in mind.
New York Bar Exam Questions
In addition to the standard MBE questions, you will have to answer essay questions for the bar in NYS. Below is a sample question from a past bar exam.
Question: A man decided to start a business repairing diesel-engine trucks. His mother’s farm had a large metal barn that had been used in the past to repair farm machinery. As his mother no longer used the barn for that purpose, she agreed to let the man perform truck repairs in it. The barn contained a large portable welding machine (worth approximately $25,000) that would be useful for making repairs on large trucks. The mother made it clear to her son that he could use the barn, but not her welding machine. Nonetheless, without his mother’s knowledge, the man frequently used the welding machine for truck repairs.
On June 1, the man obtained a $50,000 business loan from a local bank. The man and the bank signed a loan agreement. It contained a provision pursuant to which the man granted the bank a security interest “in all my equipment, including equipment hereafter acquired” to secure his repayment obligation. On the same day, the bank properly filed a financing statement listing the man as the debtor and indicating that the collateral was “all equipment, including equipment hereafter acquired.”
On June 10, the man bought some specialized tools used for diesel-engine repair. The man agreed to pay the tool seller $15,000 for the tools, paying $1,500 down and agreeing to pay the remaining $13,500 in monthly installments over a two-year period. The man signed a written agreement granting the seller a security interest in these tools to secure the man’s obligation to pay the remaining $13,500. The next day, the tool seller properly filed a financing statement listing the man as the debtor and indicating that the collateral was “diesel-engine repair tools.”
The man has defaulted on his obligations to the bank and the tool seller.
1. Does the bank have an enforceable security interest in the portable welding machine? Explain.
2. Both the bank and the tool seller are asserting interests in the diesel-engine repair tools that the tool seller sold to the man.
(a) Does the bank have an enforceable security interest in these tools? Explain.
(b) Does the tool seller have an enforceable security interest in the tools? Explain.
(c) Assuming that both the bank and the tool seller have such security interests in these tools, whose interest has priority? Explain.
Keep in mind that all of the above are just sample questions. Taking practice exams and answering sample questions will, however, help prepare for the bar regardless of your state.
What questions are on the bar exam?
Though it largely depends on what state you are taking the bar exam in, multiple-choice questions, performance tests, and essay prompts are the three most common types of questions found on the bar exam.
What percent of bar exam practice questions should you be getting correct?
To feel comfortable heading into the bar exam, you should be getting at least 70%-75% of practice questions correct during your preparation process. Anything lower than 70% and you should be working on your weaknesses.
How many minutes per question on the bar exam?
While taking the MBE (the multiple-choice section of the bar exam), you have approximately one minute and fifty seconds to complete each question.